As the number of data centers continues to increase in the United States, the good news is that they are becoming much more energy efficient. A new report from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory has found that electricity consumption by data centers nationwide, after rising rapidly for more than a decade, started to plateau in 2010 and has remained steady since, at just under 2 percent of total U.S. electricity consumption.
The Materials Project, a Google-like database of material properties aimed at accelerating innovation, has released an enormous trove of data to the public, giving scientists working on fuel cells, photovoltaics, thermoelectrics, and a host of other advanced materials a powerful tool to explore new research avenues. But it has become a particularly important resource for researchers working on batteries.
When scientists Daniel Riley and Jared Schwede left Stanford University last year to join Cyclotron Road, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s program for entrepreneurial researchers, their vision was to take thermionics, an all-but-forgotten technology, and develop it into a clean, compact, and efficient source of power.
It’s estimated that 10 percent of all the energy used in buildings in the U.S. can be attributed to window performance, costing building owners about $50 billion annually, yet the high cost of replacing windows or retrofitting them with an energy efficient coating is a major deterrent. Berkeley Lab researchers are seeking to address this problem with creative chemistry—a polymer heat-reflective coating that can be painted on at one-tenth the cost.
Scientists have simplified the steps to create highly efficient silicon solar cells by applying a new mix of materials to a standard design. The special blend of materials eliminates the need for a process known as doping that steers the device’s properties by introducing foreign atoms. Doping can also degrade performance.